Chauvinism [shoh-vuh-niz-uhm], in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belligerent belief in national superiority and glory. It is an eponym of a French soldier Nicolas Chauvin who was credited with many superhuman feats in the Napoleonic wars. By extension, it has come to include an extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of any group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards rival groups. Jingoism is the British parallel form of this French word, when referring to nation.
In ‘Imperialism, Nationalism, Chauvinism,’ in ‘The Review of Politics’ (1945), Hannah Arendt, the political theorist, describes the concept: ‘Chauvinism is an almost natural product of the national concept in so far as it springs directly from the old idea of the ‘national mission.’ … [A] nation’s mission might be interpreted precisely as bringing its light to other, less fortunate peoples that, for whatever reason, have miraculously been left by history without a national mission. As long as this concept did not develop into the ideology of chauvinism and remained in the rather vague realm of national or even nationalistic pride, it frequently resulted in a high sense of responsibility for the welfare of backward people.’
Technical Chauvinism has been used for those examples where inventors of a particular nationality have been idolized one case being that of the ship’s propeller. It had no sole inventor, but claims have been made for the Swede John Ericsson and the Czech Josef Ressel. The latter even has a national monument to him. Male chauvinism is the belief that men are superior to women. This is closely associated with sexism and misogyny, and other forms of perceiving women as inferior to men, especially intellectually. The unqualified term ‘chauvinism’ is not more likely to refer to male chauvinism than female chauvinism in the context of chauvinism as sexism. Male chauvinism has been defined as a ‘blind allegiance and simple minded devotion to one’s maleness that is mixed with open or disguised belligerence toward women. It is also usually associated with an unconscious magical ritual to ward off anxiety engendered by these same women.’
The balance of the workforce in America changed during World War II through the dramatic rise of women’s participation as men left their positions to enlist in the military and fight in the war. After the war ended and men returned home to find jobs in the workplace, male chauvinism was on the rise. Previously, men had been the main source of labor, and they expected to come back to their previous employment, but women had stepped into many of their positions to fill the void. As they integrated back into the workforce, men returned to predominantly holding positions of power, and women worked as their secretaries, usually typing dictations and answering telephone calls. This division of labor was understood and expected, and women typically felt unable to challenge their position or male superiors. There is less chauvinism seen in the general modern workplace, though it is still found in more personal relationships within businesses.
Michael Korda, author of ‘Male Chauvinism! How It Works,’ compared chauvinistic husbands to the hedgehog from a well-known Russian fable, ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’; they have one way of thinking, and it is so ingrained that they cannot change it. Chauvinistic men see marriage as a particular type of relationship, with defined responsibilities for each spouse. These expectations often match culturally endorsed Gender Roles with women expected stay home to cook, clean, and raise children, and men to work outside of the home, and are permitted to have whatever job they choose.
Male chauvinism is seen in different cultures. It is a classical concept of the Jewish religious tradition, and the Christian faith has long been criticized for the general superiority complex of males. Arab tradition expects their women to be subservient and it is their societal norm for women to reveal little, if any of their face. The religion of Islam (at least nominally) encourages male chauvinism and opposes the equality of genders. The status of women in countries or areas with observant Muslim majority populations or under Islamic law remains extremely poor even into the 21st century. Although Hindu religion and Indian cultural practice does not strictly dictate the status of women, many conservative leaders and gurus continue to hold and espouse deeply misogynistic views publicly, leading to clashes with more liberal Indians.
Some women are comfortable with being subjugated and/or relieved from positions of responsibility by men, and do not feel comfortable when they or other women are in power or authority. Such attitudes may be passed on to children, including female children, and lead to self-perpetuation. These attitudes may have resulted from centuries of historical or religious conditioning into the subservient role, or may be a backlash to the feminist movement of the past century. American former model Ann Turkel believes that chauvinistic attitudes of men stem from the early mother-child relationship, and that the concept of breast envy in men is crucial to understanding the connection between envy and devaluation, and thus the root of chauvinistic attitudes in men. Devaluation is a defense mechanism for envy.
Male chauvinism was studied in the psychoanalytic therapy of 11 men.The study found that challenging chauvinist attitudes often results in anxiety or other symptoms. It is frequently not investigated in psychotherapy because it is ego-syntonic, parallels cultural attitudes, and because therapists often share similar bias or neurotic conflict. Male chauvinism was found to represent an attempt to ward off anxiety and shame arising from one or more of four prime sources: unresolved infantile strivings and regressive wishes, hostile envy of women, oedipal anxiety, and power and dependency conflicts related to masculine self-esteem. Mothers were more important than fathers in the development of male chauvinism, and resolution was sometimes associated with decompensation in wives.
Female chauvinism is the symmetrical attitude that women are superior to men. The term female chauvinism has been adopted by critics of some types or aspects of feminism; second-wave feminist Betty Friedan is a notable example. Ariel Levy used the term in similar, but opposite sense in her book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs,’ in which she argues that many young women in the United States and beyond are replicating male chauvinism and older misogynist stereotypes.